Kwinn paused for a moment, surveying the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall before entering. The Princess Kaji stood with her back to him, staring up at the stuffed and mounted body of the giant ape that greeted visitors to the AMNH. Families and students drifted amongst the exhibits. Kwinn Martin recognized a Soviet agent and a pair of Red Chinese, but he knew they posed no danger today.
He walked up to the princess, taking his turn to admire the lifelike remains of the Eighth Wonder of the World. Kong’s face was forever frozen in a defiant roar, but his body was simply too massive to be posed with his arms raised, so his body was bent humbly despite his fierce expression. Kwinn was reminded of the many Japanese he knew. He turned to look at the young woman he was meeting, who looked so Japanese but wasn’t at all.
Kaji looked up at the monster with pity in her dark, dark eyes. She was as still as a mannequin herself, standing with a poise and confidence that was anything but humble. Her long black hair streamed down her back, her skin was porcelain-pale, and her defiant tailored jacket and trousers were snug to her shapely body. The words “stuffed and mounted” swam through Kwinn’s brain.
“The dinosaurs were killed by a time bomb,” Princess Kaji said.
An image of a tyrannosaurus struggling to choose the green wire or the red wire jumped through Kwinn’s overactive imagination. “I’m sorry?” he sputtered, thrown off-balance by the non sequitur.
“A Time Bomb,” Kaji replied. She smiled down at him, not unkindly but perhaps with amusement. “With a capital T and a capital B. Several, actually. All simultaneous.”
She leaned in and kissed him, embracing him like a lover. She smelled of cherry blossoms and Kwinn Martin’s mind reeled with simultaneous images of viewing parties at Ueno Park and meetings in D.C. He embraced her back, enjoying this fleeting moment of impersonating a loving couple.
“And what, exactly, is a Time Bomb?” he growled into the princess’ ear. He gently bit her earlobe, prompting a moan of pleasure from Kaji. She leaned back, evaluating him anew through her dark, dark eyes. Her smile held secrets and promises.
Princess Kaji took Kwinn’s hand – a comfortable and overly-familiar gesture that belied her non-Japanese origins – and turned back to look at the forever-growling ape again. “Gigantopithecus denham,” she sighed, “Have you ever wondered how Kong and his kin went undiscovered for so many years?”
“It’s not so odd,” Kwinn Martin replied, “The gorilla wasn’t discovered until the middle of the nineteenth century. Why should somewhere as remote as Skull Island not escape detection until the Thirties?”
“An island swarming with prehistoric life? An island with plesiosaurs swimming offshore? An island where Pleistocene megafauna mixed with Cretaceous dinosaurs?” Kaji pulled Kwinn away from giant ape and began walking into the Asian Mammals hall. “And what about Maple White Land? What about Mokèlé-mbèmbé? Doesn’t it seem suspicious to you that humankind never encountered dinosaurs throughout the rest of recorded history, and then suddenly dinosaurs reappear in the nineteenth century?”
Kwinn stopped and drew Princess Kaji closer. He looked up into her intense, war-haunted eyes and felt her body shiver with emotion. He kissed her; it was impossible to not love her in that moment.
“I understand what you’re hinting at, Princess,” he said as their lips parted. “This Time Bomb of yours blew – debris? shrapnel? – into the space-time continuum. Shattered fragments of past ages landed in the modern day. Your war for the future killed the dinosaurs and caused casualties even into the twentieth century.
“Don’t be surprised that we didn’t notice. Mankind was in the midst of a great age of discovery when we found these prehistoric survivors. Don’t forget: there have always been dragons.”
The sadness left her eyes for a moment, but then returned.
“Yes, Kwinn,” Princess Kaji said. “There have always been dragons, but you didn’t create them.
“The Time Bombs fired back at Earth’s past by the future factions didn’t just exterminate the species that ruled the Earth for 135 million years, they devoured them. The nano-fusion warheads tore millions – probably billions -- of dinosaurs and other animals apart at the cellular level and stitched them back together into the daikaiju. Countless lives lost, holes in the time stream…
“It makes me angry, Mr. Martin.
“It makes me angry because I would do it again in a heartbeat if the choice was mine to make. I would kill that confused, time-lost beast we just passed again and again if it meant I could save my future.
“In my future, there is no want. Humans are free to be explorers of their own hearts and minds, their own bodies and souls. We visit distant stars, we commune with life forms you can’t even imagine, we journey through time and space…
“But for those of us who have volunteered to join the war – those of us who have chosen to save the future for others -- there is endless, selfish destruction. I think about the species we have slain, the possibilities we have murdered in the name of our future and I weep with shame and fury that it has been necessary.
“You might not have created G-Zero with your atom bombs, but the daikaiju truly are humankind’s creation.”
Kwinn Martin drew Princess Kaji close. She cradled her head against his broad shoulder. He looked across the Asian Mammals hall and caught the eye of a stuffed tanuki. Movement reflected in its glass eye and he shifted to watch the Red Chinese agents approach, reflected in the exhibit’s windows.
Kwinn fished in his pocket for his other pack of cigarettes and his lighter. Those two should know better to interfere; Princes Kaji was a U. N. Intelligence matter, and even the communists respected that. He withdrew from the embrace and began lighting a cigarette. The flint wouldn’t spark.
“Twentieth century addicts! Those things cause cancer, Kwinn,” the princess exclaimed. She seemed about to say more when she noticed the Chinese agents. Kwinn turned to face them; Kaji balled her hands into fists.
“Not all daikaiju are yours, mammal!” barked one of the agents. He began to raise his arm, palm held outward, a strange light glowing from his hand.
Kwinn bit the cigarette filter. The magnet-propelled dart erupted from the tobacco and buried exploded through the agent’s eye. Princess Kaji leaped forward and shattered the other agent’s eye with one powerful, barehanded blow.
The disguise hologram that hid the agents’ true identities failed with their sudden deaths. Kwinn suspected that the circuitry must have been implanted in the would-be assassins’ skulls, but he would have to ask Princess Kaji later. The woman from the future was staring aghast at the ruins of the assassins’ heads.
They were unmistakably reptilian, though covered with fine, colorful feathers instead of scales. They reminded him strangely of the deinonychus skulls in dinosaur exhibits, despite the swollen brain cases that rivaled a human’s in size.
“It appears that there have always been dragons, Princess.
“And there always will be.”